Does Gay Marriage Make Gays Straight?

MARRIAGE/FEELINGS:

Are you in a long-term committed relationship to your same-sex partner? Do you dream of making this commitment concrete and public in a way that involves the recognition of your family and friends and some kind of scripted ceremony? Do you put a lot of time an energy into the little details that will make this ceremony as close as possible to a heterosexual wedding, regardless of whether the laws in your state/country/province/planet allow that distinction? Congratulations, we’ve seen all of The Real L Word so far and we’re big fans of yours, have you considered donating to Autostraddle? SERIOUSLY THOUGH, now that marriage is at least a remote possibility in some places in the world, it is time to immediately begin deconstructing and hyper-processing every detail of this fact, and whether it is one step forward for man or two giant steps backwards for Lesbiankind.

Basically, what we’re trying to say is that Portia announced this week that she’s taking Ellen’s last name, and clearly this is cause to re-examine everything we thought gay marriage could possibly mean. [BUT HOW AWESOME WOULD DE ROSSI DEGENERES BE AS A LAST NAMEZ?] Is it just a way of aping heterosexual relationships and lobbying for the mainstream cultural acceptance we so desperately crave? Is it a way of expressing affection towards the one you love through a series of ritualized gestures and sacrifices (like the wedding venue, or $6000 on a dress!) that is ultimately independent of sexual orientation? Is it a hateful system of oppression devised by our capitalist overlords? Is it how lesbians have sex?

Marriage has become, for better or for worse, a hugely symbolic lightning rod in the conversation about queers in America – it represents acceptance, progress, assimilation, or capitulation depending on who you talk to. So many feeling from the Sydney Morning Herald:

…crime novelist Val McDermid feels differently about her civil partnership, a decision she made because her partner, Kelly, is American and it made immigration issues easier.

”I’m glad that it’s not called ‘marriage’. For me, that offers us the possibility to avoid the pitfall of aping the worst aspects of heterosexual marriage, with its implicit roles and definitions,” she says. ”Frankly, if we screw it up and turn into bad carbon copies of Stepford Wife heterosexuality, it’s our own fault.”

It’s an emotive issue, and one that divides opinion. Meantime, feminists argue we should campaign to replace marriage with a less oppressive institution: civil partnerships for all.

Thoughts? Feelings? SHARE WITH US.

NEIL PATRICK HARRIS:

Is gonna have babies! With longtime partner David Burtka. Congratulations! (@usmagazine)

STEPHANIE MILLER:

Is a huge gaymo! Stephanie Miller, the liberal comedian, commentator and radio show host, came out this week on her show and it was kind of perfect. ”[Chely Wright] said to me, ‘Stephanie, those of us who can’t hide, that maybe don’t fit a specific stereotype…. I didn’t do it for me. I did it for the teacher in Kansas that has to take Pepto Bismol every day because she’s afraid they’re going to ask her what she did on the weekend. For the kid in Iowa who’s about to kill himself because he doesn’t think that there’s anybody like that in his town.’ And I think that’s part of moving this forward, this debate. It’s not just what some people say, ‘that freak at a parade.’ It’s your sister. It’s your daughter. It’s your doctor. It’s your lawyer, you know, whoever…. I’ve never lied on the air. I’ve never said I’m gay. I’ve never said I’m straight. Frankly, I’ve always been a slut.” (@metroweekly)

GAGA:

Many people on the internet had exciting things to say about Lady Gaga this weekend! Annie Clark of St. Vincent, who we obviously have a huge crush on, met Lady Gaga for real and tweeted us this picture about it, in which both women look really alarmingly attractive. What, you think you’re smarter than just looking at pretty women on the internet? You think you can do better? Fine, what about this sweet (although not as good as it would be if made by Alex Vega) infographic, which promises to give you Lady Gaga by the numbers? You know what, why don’t you shut up and watch this Telephone parody. It’s really good, Lady Gaga said so herself. (@ontd) (@buzzfeed)

+

LESBIAN BAR:

The Egyptian Room, Portland’s only lesbian bar, will close for good on October 9th. Aside from how obviously upsetting that statement is, I have to ask – how does Portland have only one lesbian bar? (@shewired)

COLLEGE STUDENTS:

Depending on how you look at it, college students are either “more fucked up than ever,” or “receiving the support they need to get an education.” Basically, there are more college students who need treatment for depression and anxiety; does that mean college students are worse off, or that those of us who are already worse off are now attending college? Jezebel investigates. “But it’s more possible than ever for people with mental or developmental “issues” (not just depression and anxiety, but also bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism) to be part of mainstream society and do mainstream-society things like go to college, have romantic relationships, and hold jobs. This means a whole bunch of people who would have been invisible a generation ago — or even 10 years ago, as the study shows — are now out in the world, being seen.” (@jezebel)

Avatar of Rachel

Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books as well as news and politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel currently lives in Michigan, where she teaches writing at the college level and is pursuing her MFA in fiction. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

Rachel has written 714 articles for us.

51 Comments

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    In undergrad I read a book called The Trouble With Normal which changed the way I see marriage. I do worry that gay marriage is just bringing gays into the heteronormative fold and that maybe there is a way for equal rights to be spread to everyone without marriage, or civil unions, or whatever you want. I know it’s an unpopular view and I know it won’t happen but I would like to see marriage abolished completely. Why do you need a ceremony or a piece of paper to commit yourself to one person forever? Why not just do it and be done with it? I’ve never been one of those girls who wants to marry and I don’t plan on doing so, even if it would make someone else happy because it would make me unhappy.

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      i read and loved that book in undergrad too! it’s by michael warner i think?

      i am totally the marriage type, so i think the thing that got me about that book was his point (pretty obvious) that making marriage more equally available also makes all of the institutional/legal/social benefits that go with it that much more UNavailable to those (queer) people whose relationships/ways of being/wants do not fit into that institution. like, marriage might seem like just one of many options, so why not choose it if you personally want it, but really doing that actually actively works against certain other people’s wellbeing.

      not sure i totally 100% agree, or honestly if agreeing in theory would make me not get married. maybe opening marriage up to more people will actually change the way it works as an institution? maybe it can happen that simultaneous change happens to make marriage less important in terms of access to things like healthcare? i dk.

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        I agree that with the point you just mentioned, Emma. I’ll definitely need to read that book. It’s so hard to explain to people that certain benefits are just not the norm for everyone. Not every family consists of two opposite-sexed parents and 2.5 children. What about an older sister being the primary caretaker of a child if her mother is out of the picture? What about a single grandparent who steps in to take care of children? What about extending your job benefits to someone who you really care about who isn’t your partner or who has no intention of being married? I just generally find it insulting that the norm in our society is to dumb things down so that employers and the federal government can determine how we allot our own earnings (whether it be employer-provided insurace, 401Ks, retirement plans), rather than letting us weigh in on who we think deserves it.

        Do I think that making gay marriage more acceptable and widespread alone causes this? No, but I think it contributes to the idea that really why doesn’t everyone get married to get these benefits? Why should they form nonconventional relationships? Why shouldn’t we fall back on the conventional nuclear family? Who are these fools who just can’t make it work, you know?

        Sorry for the soapbox. I just really can’t deal with the fact that as Americans we can only define our own families to a certain extent (without expensive lawyers and expertly written living wills, anyway).

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          yes! you are on point and i totally agree… you sound like the book Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage. Why should i have to have sex with someone to give them “rights and responsibilities” of marriage? I find it insulting that i can’t just go to some government agency and write down the names of people that, for example, make decisions when i’m on life support. They can sign too, then it’s a done deal….
          As far as all you lesbians who want traditional ceremonies and more traditional marriages, how would civil unions stop you? In France there are just as many straight couples that choose civil unions as gay people. What you do with your family, your dress, your children is your business… rights and responsibilities should be made available to everyone including lgbt or even non-sexual relationships.

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      Marriage in our culture is tangled up in all sorts of ways with ownership and power; If we abolished it it would completely change our relationships with our possessions and possibly cause capitalism to implode. Basically, I’m all for it but it’s not gonna happen.

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    Meh. I don’t care if some people call marriage “heteronormative” – who cares?

    If being in a happy committed couple and having a nice ceremony to show it off to your families is “heteronormative” – sign me up.

    I’m dead set against forcing queers (or anyone else) to have civil partnerships instead of marriages but I think people should have the choice if they want it.

    Honestly I wish we could just get over ourselves and our need to maintain some sort of special status. It isn’t wrong to want to be treated the same way as any other couple.

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    Telephone parody = win!

    And I can’t quite figure out how i feel about the name thing, but seriously. i want marriage, not a civil union. I don’t care if that’s what society has conditioned me to want, i want it g*dammit. The ceremony and the silly dress and the cake- yes, i do want to be able to participate in this societal ritual. i think it’s okay to want it. Isn’t it the same for gay people who want to live in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a dog, 2.5 kids, and a block party every 4th of july?
    If i want it, i should be able to choose to have it. I believe in options! People who don’t want what i want don’t have to take it, but everyone should have a choice.

    also NPH + David Burtka + children is UH-DORABLE. All the hater comments on the linked article are horrible and make me sad…

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      Agree, agree. If/when I am ready to marry my girlfriend, I want to have a wedding. Why? Because weddings are fucking FUN, and weddings are beautiful, and they don’t have to be wrapped up in religion/patriarchy/”tradition” for every couple. Mine certainly won’t be. Also, having a wedding and a legal marriage earns respect and legitimacy for the relationship that the phrase “civil partnership” just cannot compete with (at least not yet). Semantics IS key here, because the word marriage carries a lot more weight w/r/t commitment, which is what we are showing the world we are capable of doing anyway.

      And holy shit, wtf is up with all the INSANE people commenting over at USmagazine? Kinda makes me wonder if we’ve made any progress at all. I wouldn’t want to meet any of those creeps in a dark alley at night.

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    Has the existence of heterosexual marriage in Western society recently stopped straight people (married or otherwise) who want to from swinging, having open relationships, having casual sex, being polyamorous or polyfi, opting not to get married, living with their partner, having kids outside marriage, rebelling, nonconforming, fighting the patriarchy/kyriarchy, or trying to change the fucking world? (I feel like I see straight people doing this shit all the time, SOMEHOW, even though straight marriage exists on the earth.)

    Because if not then I am 100% not sure what the argument against gay marriage is about. Get married if you want; don’t get married if you want; don’t act like a fight for equal rights under the law isn’t an important one, or that winning it won’t change a million things positively for the queers in that society — including the ones who’d rather be dead than married.

    It’s such a short-sighted, selfish argument to be against it because you think other people (grown adults) want it for the ‘wrong’ reasons or something. Exactly how are you better than those denying equal marriage because they think gays are less than them? Aren’t you basically saying you think gays who want to get married are less than you, because they see life all wrong and stuff, you have decided? It’s in the same ballpark as people who say ‘yes, I am totally for a tax on fast foods that disproportionately penalises the poor and already marginalised, because they don’t know what’s good for them and we need to /make/ them eat better, dammit’. I don’t like it.

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        It’s so hard to argue this question when it’s not an option for you, though.

        Voting is another good way to look at it. There was a time when women were not allowed to vote. Government was and remains far from being a flawless model of equality across race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or any other area subject to chronic, persistent discrimination, but women still insisted upon their right to vote on it then, thank God.

        Marriage is equally imperfect and equally important, perhaps less so for straight couples and families who tend not to think twice about the rights and protections it affords them. Queer couples and families face a federally indeterminate wall that makes most of those rights and protections absolutely inaccessible, and if not inaccessible then very prohibitive to acquire, and in limited capacity.

        That’s wrong, period. It was wrong and degrading when there were race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States in 1967, and it’s wrong now. In twenty-fucking-ten, I might add.

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          PS. Does anyone even know if there were things like “civil unions” “domestic partnerships” and the like back in the 60s or whenever, prior to Loving vs. Virginia? I feel like I haven’t read or heard of anything like that, and I’m super interested in knowing if they existed.

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          I agree wholeheartedly. You don’t want to put the cart before the horse. I mean, I’m for marriage equality and marriage in general. I just feel like Rachel’s getting some heat for promoting discussion. Considering I know absolutely nothing about feminism aside from what I read here on AS, I always find posts like this enlightening.

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          no worries, I am not offended! I don’t believe that getting married is somehow defecting from the radical queer agenda, but the post was definitely meant to encourage discussion on the topic. Mostly we just really like it when you guys share your feelings, for real, and I’m really glad people had things to say on this. Actually my personal opinion is that the original article came off as rather “how crazy, those married gay people are acting like married straight people! how bizarre! let’s get out our binoculars and observe them in their natural habitat!” and also that honestly i’m grateful we’re even able to have this debate, b/c it means that marriage is an actual tangible possibility in our lives, and that is fucking wonderful. the end.

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    I haven’t finished reading this yet because the quote you got from the Sydney Morning Herald was exactly the same as the article I just read in The Guardian (because of the cute picture of Ellen and Portia that went with it) and I didn’t realise 2 newspapers could publish the same article.

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      ugh yeah. Depending on the wires or the company that owns the paper the same story can show up in a crapton of papers, word for word.

      We have one company here that prints the same story in 10-20 weekly community newspapers at a time.

      Print media is sick.

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    thank you autostraddle! I’ve been told that I look and act like Stephanie Miller (I don’t see it) so now you have given me the perfect opportunity to come out to the people who say I resemble her.

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    Okay, so I know quite a bit of the gay community is allergic to Christianity and walking into a church would probably give them hives/asthma attack!!!, but there are some gays (like myself) who would like the right to marry because it’s important to us as Christians. I would like to get married someday because I believe it is the good, perfect, and pleasing will of my Father above that I make that public declaration concerning who I’ll share my life with. It’s much like the purpose for baptism; it is a way of publicly proclaiming something that was already privately known to be true. It is a symbol, and a tradition- and we don’t have to hate tradition for tradition’s sake, just as much as we do not have to love tradition for it’s own sake.

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      Yeah, I really agree with this! I feel like sometimes we spend so much time convincing homophobic people that their churches won’t be forced to perform gay marriages that we forget there are members of our own community who want a religious ceremony. I can definitely relate!

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    re: the egyptian room
    i think there’s been consideration of this before, but could we please have some sort of article/post about why lesbian-centric businesses can’t stay afloat and/or why lesbians don’t seem to be a visible part of the community? i used to live in the most lesbian town in the nation and there wasn’t a single gathering spot for lesbians – no bar, no community center, no coffeeshop, nothing. i don’t understand! do we really never leave our houses?

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      re: “why lesbian-centric businesses can’t stay afloat”

      I feel like whenever we try to talk about this it turns into us just begging for paypal donations and makes all of you bored and annoyed with us, but yes we will def keep that in mind!

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    My very legal in CA marriage doesn’t feel het at all, and it’s been close to two years!

    For the record, I got married the first time around in SF in 2004 or whenever that was, to a woman who was very wrong for me, and being married to M now feels…well, it’s not just different in every conceivable way, it’s like comparing having a slightly torn and shitty picture of a pony or something else you’d very, very much like to have with all of your heart (and have always dreamed of having) with actually having your very own actual pony or whatever.

    It’s not merely perfect for you, because you can imagine perfect easily enough. It’s more than what you were able to fathom and it flattens you completely to understand how narrowly you could have missed it, or how narrowly it could have missed you.

    And that, my friends? That you do not fuck around with. That you want to protect – perhaps even more so if you have kids, which I do – in every way you can, and that includes legally, sexually, financially, spiritually, emotionally, physically. All of it. The marriage contract is how society negotiates some of those protections whether or not you like it, and being forbidden those protections is bullshit, and it’s discriminatory, and it’s also potentially very harmful to couples and families on several levels, in ways both tangible and intangible.

    It’s like abortion, right? Not every pro-choicer would herself have an abortion, certainly not every pro-choicer has had an abortion before, but she sure as hell wants the choice. She wants full range of authority on her own body. Marriage is very different, but the bottom line is that it’s also still a very personal choice. Let it be. Let us choose who we choose.

    PS. Cassandra – YES!

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    I’m a dyke. Dyke. You know one of those that you can probably tell is gay. I’ve been fighting the fight for 17 years. Being married would not magically make me straight and lift the stigma.

    My girlfriend is also pretty damn gay looking. When we go grocery shopping together people know we are a queer couple…not sisters, not friends, not college roommates. We look like two dykes. Being married would not change that.

    I have no doubt people will probably start assuming we’re married when they see us. Not because we look like a straight couple, but because we look like a couple in that we both look like dykes. There’s no passing for us. If there’s any backlash, it’s going to come down on us since we’re visible in our town.

    My girlfriend and I have been together for 13 years and I am very proud of our relationship for having endured discrimination this long. We’re not upper-middle class, we’re not even middle class. We’re rural and live on 15,000 a year…two of us. We’ve endured winters without heat, rice and stuffing dinners, having to hawk my guitar so we could buy food.

    And we have been in a very vulnerable position because we can’t afford attorney’s and crap for the alternative Power of Attorney contracts. If my partner lands in the hospital, and they don’t let me in, I don’t have the money to ring up an attorney to litigate for me.

    And what I find interesting is that it’s gays and lesbians projecting a top/bottom or man/woman dichotomy on married gay couples. Really? Just because Portia takes Ellen’s name that makes Ellen “the man”? I thought we went over this. There is no man in a lesbian relationship, nor is there a woman in gay male relationship. This is like Gay 101. OMG What fucking planet am I on?

    Just because two gays are married does not mean their relationship involves gender roles. And even if they did, such as with a butch/femme relationship, they’re still not straight.

    What we have been fighting for is choice. Portia didn’t have to take Ellen’s last name. No one expected her to. She wanted to. And that’s very different from women just being expected to take a man’s last name.

    I plan on taking my girlfriend’s last name. And I’m definitely not the femme or the bottom in our relationship. I want to take her name because I feel more part of her family and would like to take her family’s last name. I’ve never been that close the family I got my last name from.

    People, both gay and straight, are going to have accept the fact that marriage no longer depends on gender roles. It’s right there in the Prop 8 ruling. We won because marriage is no longer defined by gender roles. WE WON. We have changed the definition of marriage. Okay? WE DID IT.

    This is what success looks like. Right there in Judge Walker’s decision it says there’s no reason to bar two people of the same sex from getting married because our understanding of gender has changed and there are no state mandated gender roles. We didn’t win because gays are considered equal (quite the contrary) but because women are considered equal. So two women must be equal to two men must be equal to 1 man and 1 woman.

    You know what this feels like? It feels like I’m being marginalized by privileged, college graduate, white collar, feminist lesbians who are totally ignoring what marriage means to rural or working class gays. It’s like we’re not even on your radar and maybe never were.

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        I probably should’ve said birth name. But either way, I don’t think Portia changing her last name to match Ellen’s necessarily implies that Portia is losing something.

        De Rossi isn’t the name of her father and Ellen’s not a man. So this is more novel than it is traditional.

        Plus, first names are usually seen as an individual’s name, while the last name is a surname (family name). It denotes kinship, not necessarily ownership.

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    I’m squishing the first half of my last name into the last half of my partner’s last name when we get married. We wanted a team name because we want to have kids (WHOA HI THERE HETERONORMATIVITY LOL) and hyphenating our names is just a bad, bad idea.

    Also this is totally off topic, but today I was taking a market research survey about attitudes towards brands and um this happened. :3

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    I have both my parents’ last name. They’ve been married for 20+ years, but neither of them wanted to change/add to their name. Almost everyone I know are in the same situation, so when our generation start having kids, their names will be ridiculously long. It’s cool.

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    i have a question, if you can get married already in California or the other states in America that didn’t ban it, are you allowed to divorce if in the future you guys don’t work out? or is that another thing you have to work for, gay divorce?

    i live in a lame country where there’s no divorce so I’m wondering if gay marriage is legal already in America, does that include divorce?

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    I do think there’s a tiny but real reason for concern that if gay men and lesbians start getting married en masse they won’t be queer anymore (in the original as well as the political sense). That would leave the rest of the queer rainbow significantly weaker than they already are.
    On the other hand gay men and lesbians will certainly be able to have an even bigger impact on society from within the bounds of relative normalcy; For all the talk of how gays won’t change the meaning of marriage, I think you will vastly improve it.

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    Can I just say that I love how you guys cited the Sydney Morning Herald?Viva la Aussie newspapers!

    Also, kiddykins and marriage, I want that when I’m not a teenybopper and I have a house and a job kthx. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER JULIA (or Abbott, in which case the gays, women and the environment are doomed. Election times funsies. Did you know we’ve got an election on? ‘Cause we do, and I am so over it.)

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    Ya know, my grandmother and her partner for a long time said they wouldn’t get married even if it was legal in our state. They’d both been in straight marriages in the past that ended in a less than wonderful manner. But in the past year, Her partner has been making lots of comments about how if they drive out to my aunt’s in Colorado, they might stop over in Iowa. Apparently, they at first were uncomfortable with it but eventually decided it was on their own terms, not the terms society set.

    Also, woot woot about those of us with MH or Developmental disabilities integrating into society now a days. :D :D :D

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    isn’t the problem really a question of semantics? if legal rights hadn’t been named ‘marriage,’ i don’t think the debate wouldn’t happen to the same degree. marriage is a sacrament with religious meaning and a set of legal rights. i want the legal rights so that my taxes are easier, that my partner can see me in the hospital (w/o expensive legal maneuvering), etc. i do not desire or need religious recognition. being excluded from the rights of given to married couples is discriminatory. if the legal rights (incl. federal protections) were named ‘civil unions’ and marriage only happened in a church, would it be seen as selling out or ‘heteronormative’ to the same extent?
    i don’t know, but i suspect it would be less of an issue.

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